Thursday sees the conclusion of a four-game series between the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros, and what a series it has been. The first two games combined for 43 runs, as each team blew out the other on back-to-back nights. As fun as those two games were, the run-scoring stopped in the third game as a pitcher’s duel broke out until the A’s scored four runs in the sixth and won 5-3.
As great as this has been, the chances we get to see this come October are slim. While it looks pretty good for both teams to make it into the playoffs, the A’s would have to win the Wild Card game, and then win three games from the Yankees to potentially see Houston in the ALCS.
The A’s will send out trade-deadline acquisition Homer Bailey to make his 29th start of the season and his 11th with Oakland. Bailey has been solid all year, a 12-8 record with a 4.87 ERA, but his tenure in California started out a little rough. He laid two eggs in his first four starts, giving up nine runs to the Astros and seven runs to the Cubs while taking the loss in both outings.
However, he has really settled in in his last five starts and is a big reason the A’s still hold a Wild Card spot over Cleveland. He’s won his last three decisions while having an earned run average of only 2.35 over those five starts. The only time he did face Houston this year was that aforementioned nine-run blowup. Unfortunately for A’s fans, it doesn’t look like there will be a different outcome this time around either, as Bailey’s ERA on the road is 6.38.
For the Astros, the timeless Justin Verlander will make yet another start. This will be his 31st time getting the ball this season, which is significant because it makes it his 13th time (!!!) eclipsing the 31-start mark in his illustrious career. The only time he didn’t reach that mark was in 2015 during an injury-shortened campaign. Otherwise, it could be argued he’s been one of the most reliable starters in baseball history.
This season is no different as he is once again squarely in the Cy Young race with a record of 18-5 and a 2.52 ERA. He’s also leading the MLB in WHIP at a monstrous 0.77. Verlander has been en fuego in his last nine starts, going 6-1 with a 1.47 ERA.
Batters To Watch
Matt Olson missed all of April due to injury, but since coming back has been a key piece of this terrific A’s run that has seen them win 86 games so far. He’s batting .273 with 31 home runs and 80 runs batted in. Here’s the kicker: on the road versus right-handed pitching (aka Verlander), he is batting .366 with 14 home runs and 35 RBI. He’s also already homered twice in this series.
How is it possible that the Astros STILL have terrific young players coming up through their farm system this long removed after their rebuild? Yordan Alvarez has been an absolute monster since getting called up in June. He’s batting .316 with 24 home runs and 72 RBI in basically half a season. Alvarez has also homered twice already this series.
Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and a 0.667 WHIP in three starts against the A’s already this year. Not to mention his 1.53 ERA at home, and he is only two starts removed from his no-hitter. Verlander can’t be touched. Take the Astros.